To All Those Eating Junk Food “You Are What You Eat”

A healthy diet is an important part of

being a good leader. Just how

important, you might be surprised.

For entrepreneurs, eating isn’t just about

satisfying hunger. So say the growing ranks of

nutrition experts who specialize in fine-tuning

the metabolic performance of business

leaders. “You’re like an athlete in the

workplace,” says Richard Chaifetz, CEO of

ComPsych, a Chicago-based provider of

corporate wellness and employee-assistance

programs. “So you should eat like an athlete.”

At the very least, that means lots of lean

protein, fruits and vegetables, and complex

carbohydrates; no processed foods; and

minimal white flour and sugar. But when you

spend all day confronting challenging mental

tasks, the brain’s nutritional demands are


For example, have you ever worked so hard

that it felt as though your brain were on fire?

It sort of was, says Patti Milligan, director of

nutrition at Tignum, a consultancy that helps

businesses boost employee performance

through holistic wellness programs. “You

produce lots of oxidants in the brain when

you’re working,” she says. “Foods that are

high in antioxidants–berries, beans, apples,

tea–act like flame retardants.”

And don’t forget water. “The brain is 70 to

80 percent water,” Milligan says. “When it’s

metabolically active 10 to 12 hours a day,

removing metabolic waste from the brain

requires optimal hydration.” She suggests

“super-hydrating” with two cups at the

beginning of the day and avoiding

“dehydrators,” like processed sugary foods,

high doses of caffeine, and soda. And watch

out for “brain fog,” which can be evidence

that you need to hydrate.

Speaking of caffeine, “coffee depletes

serotonin, which contributes to a sense of

well-being,” says Barbara Mendez, a New York

City nutrition consultant who works with many

business clients. “If you have it on an empty

stomach, that quick delivery to the

bloodstream leads to more anxiety and

stress.” So save the coffee for midafternoon,

when your hormonal and neural connections

often need the boost.

If you do just one thing, cut out fatty foods.

Andrew DiMichele, chief technical officer of

Omada Health, an online diabetes-prevention

program, gave up fries and chips at lunch and

found an almost immediate boost in

productivity. “A couple of weeks ago, I let this

slide, and it was a stark reminder,” DiMichele

says. “Not only was I sleepy and un-attentive

all afternoon, but I was in a miserable mood.”

Science bears this out. According to a

Cambridge University study, after five days on

a high-fat diet, the treadmill performance of

lab rats declined by half. Moreover, the rats

eating fatty chow began to falter on a maze

test they had been trained on–finding only

five treats before making a mistake. The

healthier rats were able to find six or more

treats. And as any entrepreneur knows, it’s all about finding the treats.

Brain Food:

Drink Water

A 2011 study in the British Journal of

Nutrition found that even mild dehydration in

men reduced vigilance and memory and

increased tension, anxiety, and fatigue.

Put Down The French Fry

A 2009 Cambridge University study found that

high-fat diets made laboratory rats not just

slower but dumber.

Sugar = Bad

A recent UCLA study found that a diet high in

fructose slows the brain, hampering memory

and learning. Omega-3 fatty acids–found in

salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed–can counteract the disruption.

By Adam Bluestein


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *